Florida: Where Lightning Strikes

Self is still digging deep through her pile of stuff, languishing since 2015. Which is why the article about Trump that she reads this morning, in The New York Review of Books (September 2015) is so scary. Because it sounds exactly like right now. And Trump wasn’t even President yet.

If nothing else, the article, written by Michael Tomasky, shows that Trump did not suddenly sneak up on America like a Stealth bomber. His base was quietly building (like the ratings for his show, The Apprentice) for at least a decade.

An excerpt:

Is Trump not the logical culmination of where Republican politics have been headed for many years now, going back to the Clinton and Bush presidencies, but especially during the presidency of Barack Obama? Two qualities more than any others have driven conservatism in our time. The first is cultural and racial resentment, felt by the mostly older and very white population the GOP increasingly represents — resentment against a fast-changing, more openly sexual America, as well as against dark-skinned immigrants, and White House occupants, and gay people and political correctness and the “moocher class” and all the rest. The second is what we might call spectacle — the unrelenting push toward a rhetorical style ever more gladiatorial and ever more outraged (and outrageous), driven initially by talk-radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and now reproduced on websites, podcasts, and Twitter feeds too numerous to mention.

Self thinks that the reason the GOP and conservative pundits lash out at the survivors of the Florida School Shooting is: here are a group of kids challenging them on their turf: the media.

Dinesh D’Souza (who, when last self checked, was an adult, with a bestselling book yet) ridicules the Florida students who broke into tears when Congress refused to revive a bill that would ban assault rifles. Because D’Souza himself is a master manipulator of the media, but it took him decades to get there. And suddenly, almost overnight, the kids are everywhere: on the web, in our news, on television.

Which proves self’s point: In the last few decades, the GOP has become nothing more than a party of shills. Their power is the media, not the implementation of actual policy issues.

And in a party like that, of course the biggest shill of all would win his party’s nomination.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Poetry Saturday: Frederick Seidel

The Bird on the Crocodile’s Back (An Excerpt)

The man can’t stay awake. He falls asleep.
It’s noon, it’s afternoon, repeatedly he falls in deep.
Seated at his desk or in an armchair, as if to try to write a poem meant
A flash flood of sleep and drowning on Parnassus in his tent,
Or something else equally not good.
The guy’s completely gone and sawing wood,
Snoring and snorting — until one snort wakes him —
And where is he? he cant think where he is — which shakes him.

(published in The New York Review of Books, 19 February 2015)

#amreading: “The Daggers of Jorge Luis Borges”

From The New York Review of Books, 9 January 2014, a review by Michael Greenberg of Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature, edited by Martin Arias and Martin Hadis, and translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (New Directions):

  • Throughout his life, Jorge Luis Borges was engaged in a dialogue with violence. Speaking to an interviewer about his childhood in what was then the outlying barrio of Palermo, in Buenos Aires, he said, “To call a man, or to think of him, as a coward — that was the last thing . . . the kind of thing he couldn’t stand.” According to his biographer, Edwin Williamson, Borges’s father handed him a dagger when he was a boy, with instructions to overcome his poor eyesight and “generally defeated” demeanor and let the boys who were bullying him know that he was a man.

 

 

Quote of the Day: Marcia Angell Reviews Atul Gawande’s BEING MORTAL

This is the opening sentence of Angell’s review, which appeared in The New York Review of Books in 8 January 2015:

  • In his newest and best book, the surgeon Atul Gawande lets us have it right between the eyes: no matter how careful we are or healthful our habits, like everyone else, we will die, and probably after a long period of decline and debility . . .  Furthermore, the medical system will be of very little help at the end.

 

“The Mystery of ISIS” by Anonymous

The New York Review of Books, 13 August 2015

Self is not kidding: for the first time ever in her many years of reading The New York Review of Books, there is a piece whose writer is identified only as “Anonymous.”

It’s a review of two new (well, relatively new; the issue self is reading is a year old) books about the rise of Islamic State aka IS/ISIS/ISIL/Army of the Levant and its founder, Ahmad Fadhil aka Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan (Regan Arts) and ISIS: The State of Terror, by Jessica Stern and J. M. Berger (Ecco)

The reviewer asks:

  • “Who (in 2003) could have imagined that a movement founded by a man from a video store in provincial Jordan would tear off a third of the territory of Syria and Iraq, shatter all these historical institutions, and — defeating the combined militaries of a dozen of the wealthiest countries on earth — create a mini-empire? The story is relatively easy to narrate, but much more difficult to understand.”

The piece is very long and dense with information. Among its many references is one to Lawrence of Arabia (who said “. . . insurgents must be like a mist — everywhere and nowhere — never trying to hold ground or wasting lives in battles with regular armies.”) and another to Chairman Mao (who insisted that “guerrillas should be fish” swimming “in the sea of the local population”)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

What Is a Mestizo?

From J. H. Elliott’s review of Imperialism and the Origins of Mexican Culture, by Colin M. MacLachlan, in The New York Review of Books, 9 July 2015:

Although the racial definiton of a Mestizo is a person born to Indian and European parents, a better definition of a Mestizo is a person who functions within a modified culture drawn from both the indigenous and European historical-cultural experience: in short, those who embrace cultural mestizaje and organize their personal life and behavior accordingly.

Colonial Mexico was “an acutely caste-conscious society, in which the boundaries of each casta would be meticulously delineated in the famous sets of eighteenth-century casta paintings, more than a hundred of which are known.”

And that is all self can post for now, but she is sure dear blog readers will agree that image and reality are so far apart in the matter of race because no one wants to acknowledge any blurring of categories. It is just too difficult. But identity cannot be constructed without taking account of race, so what are we to do?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Colm Toibin, The New York Review of Books, 9 July 2015

Self used to have a subscription to The New York Review of Books. Oh how she mourns, mourns, mourns that absence, it was her go-to publication for really good writing, such as the one in the 9 July 2015 issue, Colm Toibin’s essay “The Hard-Won Truth of the North.”

In describing poet Elizabeth Bishop’s move from Nova Scotia to Worcester, Massachusetts, Toibin writes: “. . . the sudden disruption, the end of the familiar, came as a rare and ambiguous gift to the writers. Despite the pain involved, or precisely because of it, they found not only their subject, but their style.”

In discussing the Swedish writer Stig Dagerman (d. 1954, at the age of 31), Toibin writes: “Dagerman was in possession of several tones.”

Isn’t that such a beautiful sentence? It says it all.

Dagerman had “a gift for writing sharp and cool declarative sentences that is close to Hemingway.”

His short stories use “a tone close to that in the early stories of James Joyce’s Dubliners, which Joyce described to his publishers as a tone of ‘scrupulous meanness.’ ”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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